How to Act ****

Theatre

Summerhall

Venue 26

13.10 (run ends 27th Aug, not 14th, 21st)

 

“Internationally renowned theatre director Anthony Nicholl has travelled the globe on a life-long quest to discover the true essence of theatre.  Today he is giving a masterclass, working with a hand-picked actor to demonstrate his unique methods.”

 

Nicholl [Robert Goodale] welcomes the audience as they arrive, and quickly sets up his ‘guru’ status by asking various people if he can borrow their shoes, promising no harm will come to them: he moves them around the stage as he introduces the session “I’m not a master, and this is not a class”… The pretentious piffle continues and finally the shoes are arranged in a circle, the sacred space in which the truth can be explored – the revolutionary idea he discovered at the end of his company’s tour in Africa in the 1980s, which has informed all his subsequent work.

 

He welcomes his actor for the day, Promise [Jade Ogugua], who is obviously nervous but determined to make the most of her opportunity to work with a master: she tries desperately to give the ‘right’ answers to his probing questions, while also challenging the assumptions he continually makes about her from her appearance.  He invites her to explore, without words, an early childhood memory; he plays trust games with her, joins her in a wordless improvisation.  Suddenly the lighting changes and Promise is telling us about the exploitation of Nigeria’s natural resources by global oil companies in the 1980s: another story starts to emerge, and all our assumptions, and Nicholl’s assertion that he alone is the master of truth, are challenged…

 

The observation of actors and directors is excellent, and both actors displayed a wide range of constantly-changing emotions: I particularly liked the way the balance of power slowly shifted as the ‘master’ began to feel threatened.  This National Theatre of Scotland play was up to its usual high standard, though I saw the ending coming a fair way off.  This Fringe I’ve seen a number of shows about global inequities and the choices individuals do, or do not, have: How to Act also raises some of these issues, though it doesn’t really offer any answers.

 

Mary Woodward